Kentucky House passes ban on older transgender athletes

Measure would bar transgender girls from participating in sports that match their gender identity

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP/WTVQ) — The Kentucky House advanced a measure Thursday that would bar transgender girls from participating in school sports that match their gender identity from sixth grade to college. Because the Republican-backed bill was amended in House, it now heads back to the Senate for concurrence.

Under the proposal, the gender of a student for the purpose of determining athletic eligibility would be determined by the ”student’s certified birth certificate as originally issued at the time of birth or adoption.”

If it passes into law, Kentucky would join a growing number of GOP-dominated states adopting similar bans, though the bans have been challenged in several states as violations of federal law. In almost every one of those states, sponsors have been unable to cite a single instance in their own state or region where such participation has caused problems.

American Civil Liberties Union Kentucky spokesman Samuel Crankshaw, in a statement, called the measure a “solution in search of a non-existent problem.”

“If this becomes law, it will jeopardize our children’s mental health, physical well-being, and ability to access educational opportunities comparable to their peers,” Crankshaw said.

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ACLU-KY spokesperson Samuel Crankshaw issued the following statement regarding House passage of Senate Bill 83: 

The Kentucky House today passed Senate Bill 83 to single out transgender girls by banning them from girls’ sports. This bill is a solution in search of a non-existent problem. If this becomes law, it will jeopardize our children’s mental health, physical well-being, and ability to access educational opportunities comparable to their peers.

Senate Bill 83 violates students’ Constitutional rights to equal protection and privacy, and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act by imposing a wholesale ban on transgender girls from participating in athletics consistent with their gender identity. Similar bans have been blocked in federal courts in Idaho and West Virginia, and a challenge to including trans girls was dismissed in Connecticut.

Senate Bill 83 was amended to ban girls and women from sixth grade through college. This would jeopardize colleges’ and universities’ participation in organizations like the National Collegiate Athletic Association because Senate Bill 83 could force Kentucky teams to violate NCAA policies.

Trans kids, just like all kids, simply want to participate in the activities they love, including athletics. Trans students participate in sports for the same reasons other young people do: to challenge themselves, improve fitness, and be part of a team. Excluding trans students deprives them of opportunities available to their peers and sends the message they are not worthy of a full life.

Proponents of SB83 provided no examples of any Kentucky students being harmed by including trans girls in girls’ sports, even when directly asked in a Senate committee hearing. Lawmakers have also ignored the positions of leading women’s athletics organizations that support inclusion, including the Women’s Sports Foundation and the National Women’s Law Center.

While there are no instances of inclusion causing harm, we know for a fact that many children will be harmed if SB83 becomes law. Senators heard from multiple trans athletes, including Fischer Wells, a 12-year-old girl who recruited friends to start her school’s field hockey team. The House Education Committee did not even allow opponents of SB83 to testify and turned Fischer away after she traveled to the Capitol to share how SB83 would affect her. Committee Chair Huff did allow The Family Foundation to testify. Lawmakers in both chambers have now ignored Fischer’s pleas to let her play with her friends and instead voted to kick her off her team.

Transgender students already live and go to school in Kentucky, play sports, and enjoy time with their friends. They deserve the chance to succeed and thrive like any other student. The adults in the General Assembly should focus on what students, teachers, and schools really need, rather than single out vulnerable children to score cheap political points.

Senate Bill 83 passed the Senate in February and is expected to receive a concurrence vote in the Senate, the final step before it heads to Governor Beshear. We strongly urge Governor Beshear to veto this hateful, unconstitutional legislation.

To all the students who may be affected by this legislation: we stand by you and will not stop fighting. You are cherished. You are loved. You belong.

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The Fairness Campaign condemns the Kentucky House passage of anti-transgender Senate Bill 83 and issued this statement:

“Transgender kids want the same things all children do—to play with their friends, get a good education and pursue their passions, including sports. Like all kids, they deserve the opportunity to participate on sports teams that help them stay active, bring them joy and fulfillment, and teach them about teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship,” said Chris Hartman, Executive Director of the Fairness Campaign in Kentucky. “Lawmakers should stop meddling in the lives of innocent kids trying to play with friends on their schools’ sports teams and focus on more pressing issues that pose legitimate threats in Kentucky.”

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The Family Foundation applauds the Kentucky House passage of Senate Bill 83 and issued the following release:

The Family Foundation applauded the Kentucky House’s passage of Senate Bill 83, the Save Women’s Sports Act, which provides protections for girls in athletics. “In sports, biology matters,” said David Walls, executive director of The Family Foundation. “When we ignore science and biological reality, women pay the price. Allowing males to compete in girls’ sports reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women. That’s neither fair nor equal.”

The Kentucky House voted 70-23 in favor of Senate Bill 83’s protections for fair competition in girls’ sports, including through college.

Walls expressed his thanks to Representative Dotson for leading the effort in the House on the Save Women’s Sports Act, including protections for female college athletes. “We believe that to fully protect Kentucky’s girls, we must also protect college athletes.”

“The numerous advantages that males have over females in athletics are even more prominent by college age. Those advantages are also more decisive in college, where margins become tighter, and any competitive edge can be the deciding factor.”

The need for the Save Women’s Sports Act, and the necessity of including college athletes, is currently on full display as swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male, is expected to dominate the 2022 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships today. Thomas was originally ranked #462 as a male, but after deciding to compete as a female, Thomas has dominated women’s swimming.

The Save Women’s Sports Act has already passed in 11 states since 2020, most recently in Iowa this year. Kentuckians can learn more about the Save Women’s Sports Act and contact their legislators on the new Action Center on The Family Foundation’s updated website.

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The Trevor Project condemns passage of anti-trans sports ban by Kentucky House of Representatives and shared the following: 

The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people, condemned the passage of SB 83 by the Kentucky House of Representatives, which would restrict transgender women and girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity.

“As transgender and nonbinary youth continue to face unrelenting political attacks all across the country, we urge Kentucky lawmakers to focus on supporting them, not pushing them onto the sidelines,” said Sam Ames (they/them pronouns), Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “This bill focuses on a problem of ‘fairness’ in school sports that simply does not exist – but its negative impacts on the mental health and well-being of trans and nonbinary youth are very real. These youth already face disproportionate rates of bullying, depression, and suicide risk, and bills like this one will only make matters worse.”

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66%) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health. When asked about new policies that would ban transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams and transgender boys from playing on boys’ sports teams, 74% of transgender and nonbinary youth said it made them feel angry, 57% felt sad, 43% felt stressed, and nearly 1 in 3 felt scared.

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. Further, a 2020 peer-reviewed study by The Trevor Project’s researchers, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that transgender and nonbinary youth who report experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity had more than double the odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not experience discrimination based on their gender identity.

However, research also shows that transgender and nonbinary youth who have access to gender-affirming spaces report lower rates of attempting suicide. A 2021 peer-reviewed study by The Trevor Project’s researchers, published in Transgender Health, also found that transgender and nonbinary youth who reported gender identity acceptance from adults and peers had significantly lower odds of attempting suicide in the past year.

The Trevor Project’s research has also found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (68%) have never participated in sports for a school or community league or club — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678.

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